Alaska Senate Bill 93 Introduced to End Adverse Possession

A legal doctrine with roots in common law by which squatters may acquire ownership rights to the land of another under certain specific conditions would be excised from Alaska statutes under a bill introduced Friday by Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai. The Doctrine of Adverse Possession "allows a person who has no claim of ownership to squat on someone else's property and, as a result of their illegal trespass, the squatter could actually secure title to the property they are squatting on," Wagoner said in a press release. "That is simply legal thievery ‹ to me that is offensive and it needs to stop."

Senate Bill 93 would repeal the doctrine, giving private property owners an added degree of security in knowing their land could not be taken away summarily, Wagoner said. The Doctrine of Adverse Possession applies only to privately owned land, not state land. Wagoner said he believed the doctrine also might apply to Native lands and possibly University of Alaska and Mental Health Trust lands.

The Doctrine of Adverse Possession is applicable in Alaska where someone lives on land for an uninterrupted period of seven to 10 years, depending on other factors. However, simply dwelling on land one does not own doesn't automatically confer ownership. Other legal principles are involved. For instance, the squatting must be "hostile," "notorious" and "continuous."

Wagoner said some owners of Alaska property might be vulnerable to such takeovers.

Senate Bill 93 has been referred to the Senate's Labor and Commerce and Judiciary committees.